On 25th April 2015 Nepal was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. This also triggered a massive avalanche at Everest Base Camp.
11 months later I find myself at the home of one of the Sherpa that we lost that day. I am in Chheskham, Sokukhumbu overlooking hills with scars to show the earthquake happened.
I had left Rocham on a bright sunny morning heading down through the terraced hills of Waku down towards the river on the locals route.
At the bridge our friend Bakta left us and headed back to his family pointing us in the right direction to Shivatat. If you are at a bridge crossing a river on a hot and humid day in the Solukhumbu there is only one direction to head….up!
For an hour and 20 minutes we climbed with the midday sun beating down on us, it was hard work and, as not a tourist trail, it was straight up!
We giggled as we made our way up through the terraces as the top of the hill, mainly at my attempt to climb them but also as Kami had spotted a track with an easier route up….just as we reached the top. Luckily enough a family took pity on us and fed us 2 bowls of noodle soup and sent us in the right direction.
Nepali flat is never good, especially not when the sun and heat is unrelenting. Kami was stopping before me, I knew he was tired. For 2.5 more hours we trudged up the hill and were always being told that Shivatat was an hour away.
I was dreaming if bottled water as my hot water from the lunch place didn’t taste too great so I ended up just swilling it round my mouth to take away the dryness!
Eventually 2 weary travellers arrived in Shivatat and Kami put the bags and me in one place in the middle of this bustling market village whilst he went off to find somewhere for us to stay. He came back, we were in luck….turns out we were staying in the lodge that doubles as a hostel for the local school. 2 boys were kicked out of their room and I had somewhere to stay. Soon one of the boys that lives just down the road called Ramesh came to see me and practice his already excellent English. Then I started giving out my Mam’s hats. I didn’t realise quite what trophies these would be. Children would turn up “this is my sister can she have one too?” Soon about 20 had been given out to kids and adults alike.
The next morning was once again hot as we headed out of Shivatat spotting hats as we left. I had been told the night before by one of the kids that I was slow if I was taking 2 days to get to Chheskham. He was right as 3 hours later we arrived in Bung where we planned to stay the night. We were both glad of a restful afternoon after the previous days excursions.
We were informed over dal bhat (what else) that “bistari” it would take us 3 hours to get to Chheskham – and they were right. But during that 3 hours we also had to negotiate 2 extremely dodgy bridges. One was at the base of a massive landslide that had wiped out the previous suspension bridge during the earthquake, we then had to negotiate our way up said landslide. The other Kami found was a couple of bits of bamboo over the river, halfway across we looked further upstream and saw the real bridge!
When we arrived in Chheskham we stopped at the first shop and asked if they knew of Kumar’s family. Turns out the owner is Sangar, his wife’s older brother! We had noodle soup there then he locked up his shop and we followed him out of the village centre, past the 2 schools and on to Kumar’s house.
Here we were greeted by his widow, Panchsangkha, and youngest son and immediately offered tea, local popcorn and boiled eggs.
There was much discussion in a mix of Rai and Nepali as to where we would stay. We settled on the compromise of eating with Kumar’s family and staying with Sangar (tongba tours was back at his house….delicious. sweet and strong)
Kumar’s younger brother, Kubil, came to see us for dinner and we discussed what they wanted to happen for the kids education. He was cagey over figures but the most important thing to me was that the kids wanted to stay in Chheskham to have their education. They didn’t want to leave their Mum and family.
I made sure Kubil, knew that there would be no problem for the kids schooling and that lots of people back in the UK had been raising money to ensure that Kumar’s wishes for his kids to have a good education would continue.
I spent a while on my own with the eldest 3 looking through the photos and videos on my phone all of then happily holding onto my arm or leaning on my leg or with their arm around me. They were happy smiley kids and all had Kumar’s big beaming smile. His eldest son, Hasta, being his own “mini me”
We said our goodnights and headed up to our home for the night and finished our tongba before heading up the dodgy ladder to our rooms.
The next morning I was rudely awakened by a massive rumbling and the whole house starting to shake. My first thought was earthquake, then I realised in my sleepy haze that this was a mechanical noise and it was the milling machine I had seen on the front porch yesterday. When I ventured downstairs I was greeted by a queue of ladies who had bought their bags of grain ready to be milled.
Breakfast done we headed back to Kumar’s greeted by big beaming grins and tea. Then an older man turned up and eventually I was told this was Kumar’s Dad. I was proud that up to this moment I had managed to keep myself composed but when I looked into his eyes I could see the pain losing his son had caused. We held hands and just looked at each other, my tears welling. I couldn’t help it. Then Hasta, our mini Kumar appeared and the tears turned to smiles. I looked at him and said to Kumar’s Dad “same face, same smile, mini Kumar” he smiled and nodded as Hasta’s grin brightened the world…all was good again.
Pictures taken, it was time to leave. Panchsangkha wouldn’t take any money for last night’s dinner as much as I tried.
Hugs from all the kids and a heartfelt “Namaskar” from Panchsangkha, we held hands and exchanged smiles. She spoke as little Nepali as me but the look said it aĺl.
We followed Sangar back to his shop with the kids waving and shouting “bye bye” as we headed down through the terraces.
At the shop, she bought 2 kharta’s and gave them to Kami and I. I had to leave quickly after that as the tears were starting again.
It had been a hard trek to get there but I was so glad I had made the effort. Kumar’s family had been reassured and I had lost another piece of my heart.